During your first time in a boarding stable, you might feel like you’ve suddenly been transported to a different country. There are so many words flying around that you’ve never heard before! No one likes to feel like they’re the only person not “in the know.” That’s why we put together this basic guide to horse terminology. Read through it, and you won’t feel so out of place next time you head to the stables and hear someone start talking about how many hands their yearling is.
Terms Referring to Horses
The following terms all refer to horses of different sexes, sizes, or life stages, in order to make it easy to distinguish between different types of horses.
Ponies are a type of miniature horse that are no taller than 14.2 hands when fully grown.
A mare is an adult female horse that’s 3 years or older.
Any adult male horse that is 3 years or older and not castrated is called a stallion.
A gelding is any male that’s 3 years or older that has been castrated.
Foals are newborn horses that haven’t been weaned.
This is any male horse under 3 years of age.
This is any female horse under 3 years of age.
This is any colt or filly that’s between 6 and 12 months of age.
This is any horse between 1 and 2 years old.
Terms About Horses
In this section, all the terms describe something about a horse, such as their height or a component of their health.
Horses’ heights are measured in hands. A hand is equal to 4 inches.
A horse’s points are their mane, lower legs, ear tips, and tail. This term is used when describing the horse’s color.
A horse is lame when they have an injury that affects their health or performance.
Sound horses are healthy animals that are free from injuries that affect their health or performance.
Gait refers to the four different speeds that a horse can travel: walk, trot, canter, and gallop.
This is a term about the condition of a horse’s body. Horses with good conformation are hardier and have a higher chance of remaining healthy and sound.
Not all horse terms specifically discuss horses or their physical traits. The following terms refer to things that are related to horses in some way.
Any equipment used with a horse, such as a bridle or saddle, is called tack.
Gradually separating a foal from their mother is a process known as weaning.
The lunge line is a long rein that’s usually about 20–40 feet in length and meant for lunging a horse.
Done on a lunge line, lunging is a manner of exercising a horse, entailing the horse circling the trainer who’s holding the other end of the lunge line.
Now that you know more equine terms, you’ll feel more confident going to your next rodeo or horse class. Don’t worry if you don’t have everything memorized after your first readthrough, though. Like learning any new language, practicing the vocabulary and being submerged in the culture are what will help the most!
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